Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
The Los Angeles Lakers are not contenders this season, but they have found their footing after a disastrous swoon.
Los Angeles beat the short-handed San Antonio Spurs at the Staples Center on Thursday, 93-81, pushing its winning streak to three after dropping nine straight. Brandon Ingram led the way with 26 points, while Lonzo Ball flashed his overall abilities with 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals.
San Antonio was without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Danny Green because of injuries and was in comeback mode throughout after falling behind by 19 points in the first half. It battled all the way back to take the lead in the second half but ultimately ran out of firepower with so many key pieces sidelined.
Even without some of the primary playmakers on the floor, a matchup with the consistent Spurs provided a valuable test for the Lakers' young core.
Ingram shined early, staking Los Angeles to its initial commanding lead by aggressively attacking the basket and finishing in the lane. He was more than comfortable working against the Spurs' many veterans, including Manu Ginobili and LaMarcus Aldridge, on his way to 18 first-half points:
The Lakers are 14-27, but the 20-year-old Ingram flashed some of the star power that has fans excited about the team's future.
Ingram wasn't the only No. 2 overall pick flashing his potential Thursday, as Ball continued to prove he can impact the game in a number of ways with his assists and rebounding. That ability has helped him overcome some shooting woes in his rookie campaign, but not even that was missing when he drilled all three of his three-pointers in the first half and finished with the best shooting performance of his career:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Lonzo Ball: shot 64% from the field tonight (7-11), his highest field goal percentage in a game in his career. https://t.co/Jbsi3kUqro
He also mixed in a little style on the break alongside Jordan Clarkson:
Ingram and Ball stood out, but the other young Lakers did their part on the defensive side while stifling San Antonio's attack.
Kyle Kuzma and Larry Nance Jr. were tasked with dealing with the frontcourt of Aldridge and Pau Gasol because Julius Randle and Brook Lopez found themselves in foul trouble, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started a critical 13-0 run in the fourth quarter with a timely steal.
San Antonio had pulled within two when Caldwell-Pope parlayed the steal into a rim-rattling jam, and he found Nance with a lob on the team's next possession to push the advantage to six:
The defense set the tone by forcing 20 San Antonio turnovers, although the visitors were a shell of themselves thanks to injuries.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich went as far as to call his group "offensively challenged" during the TNT broadcast, an apt description for Thursday's showing. It wasn't just the sloppy ball-handling that cost San Antonio but the inability to take advantage of open looks when they presented themselves.
Gasol went just 4-of-14 from the field, Aldridge was 6-of-15 and the rest of the Spurs not named Bryn Forbes were a mere 4-of-13 from three-point range.
Forbes drilled four triples on his way to 18 points and spearheaded a run in the third quarter to take the lead alongside Dejounte Murray. As Forbes was stretching the defense with his shooting, Murray sliced through openings and created open looks for himself and others on the way to a double-double of 14 points and 11 boards.
Still, the veterans in the frontcourt struggled in key moments.
Aldridge led the way with 20 points, but he didn't serve as the consistent go-to option the Spurs needed with Leonard sidelined. As a result, the offense broke down multiple times in the fourth quarter, leading to turnovers and poor looks as the Lakers clinched the win.
Perhaps the only downside for Los Angeles was the fact Corey Brewer didn't see the floor, snapping his streak of 317 straight games. According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, it was the longest among active players.
San Antonio will have the chance to turn things around Saturday against the Denver Nuggets, while the Lakers start a three-game road trip the same day against the Dallas Mavericks.
Source : http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2753784-lonzo-ball-lakers-beat-spurs-93-81-brandon-ingram-drops-26